The Biggest Choice You’ll Make Every Day Towards Your Happiness
I’ve been thinking this week about something that has bothered me about the way people approach not just romantic relationships, but every relationship in their lives.
Most of us get frustrated with family and friends because we don’t feel like they give us what we need.
We spend years waiting for our best friend to show a certain interest in our work, or for that parent to ask the right question and say the right words that will validate us as adults, or for that sibling to come visit us where we live, see our families, and spend more time with their nephews and nieces.
When those people inevitably let us down, bitterness surfaces.
We slowly poison ourselves with years of unresolved anger and resentment towards others for not giving us what we need from them.
If that sounds familiar, ask yourself: Why are you waiting for other people to give you these things? Why do you spend so much energy and emotion annoyed at the inability of others to change their personality to make you happy?
I know why: Because we feel it’s not enough that people care about us in their own way. We want them to care in the right way. The way we’ve always wanted them to.
Maybe your frustration lies in something seemingly tiny. Perhaps you think: “Of course I know my mum loves me, but if she just showed an interest in my passion for music it would feel like she really cares about what’s important to me”.
Except, the problem is, people show they care in a hundred different ways. And not always the way we hope they will.
Sometimes it’s our job to see the ways other people try, even when they don’t get it right.
It’s unfair to expect one person to give us every single piece of validation we require from them – short of them reading our minds, that’s probably never going to happen.
With that all said, I want to propose an undervalued route to happiness and contentment in your personal relationship with others, which is simply this: start to expect less from other people.
Or at the very least, to stop expecting everything from everyone.
Some friends will appreciate your work. Your dad might appreciate your intelligence. Your brother might appreciate your kindness. Your cousin might listen to your relationship woes and offer thoughts on your latest career crises.
Maybe it’s enough that your boyfriend appreciates your hobbies and interests, or maybe it’s enough just knowing that you appreciate what you’ve chosen to do with your life.
How To Stop Being Frustrated In Your Relationships
Our need for universal approval can hold us back in all sorts of ways.
It makes us hesitant, when we need to take action. It makes us wallow in doubt, when we need to be out there in the mud, making mistakes and correcting course. It makes us obsess and waste time hoping for others to give us praise, when we should be focused on our own internal satisfaction.
I’m not saying your frustrations with other people can all just melt away, nor am I saying they aren’t based on legitimate grievances.
Yes, the fact that your sister or cousin never comes to see your family may indicate that they don’t give a shit. That’s annoying. But you now have the choice how angry and upset to feel about that.
Does it mean you should retaliate by cutting off your relations with them, and refuse to speak to them for the next year? Or does it mean you just need to manage what you expect from that relationship in order to be satisfied with it?
I’ve found a lot more contentment results from allowing people to be who they are and reacting accordingly.
When you stop focusing on the need for others to praise or approve of you in the right way, you can just focus on being with them. You learn to enjoy their company and love them for who they are, instead of who you want them to be.
Choose Your Own Influences
Ok, with family, you pretty much have to love them (or at least learn to get along with them!), but what about everyone else in your sphere of influence?
If someone proves to be constantly difficult, negative, selfish, critical, unhelpful, and generally a pain in the ass – you have two choices:
(1) Communicate the problem, so they know how you feel.
(2) Take responsibility for how much influence you allow that person to have in your world.
If I could give one piece of advice for mental sanity and happiness, it would be to be very, very stingy about which people you devote time, emotion and energy to in your life.
Choose people in your world whose values for friendship, kindness, considerateness, positivity fall strongly in line with your own. And distance yourself quickly from those who do not.
No matter how mentally strong you think you are, people will influence your behaviour and mood more than probably any other part of your existence.
Bad moods are infectious. So is confidence. So is kindness.
Your decision to be around and affected by those close to you can either pay dividends and lift your sense of well-being every day, or it can make achieving any satisfaction a thankless struggle that becomes near impossible due to the toxic behaviour around you.
Always be choosing the people around you: choose who you talk to, who you go to lunch with, who you work with, and who you deal with: the people around you can either be act as a constant roadblock or your secret weapon.
But if your happiness in the relationship is dependent on them making a sudden, dramatic change, and you won’t be satisfied until it happens…you’ll be waiting a long time to be happy.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.